Liberty

While watching an old Gaither Homecoming video recently, an old Patriotic song brought my thoughts to the cost that was paid for my liberty. It sent me on a word study, where I discovered that the word liberty is used some 27 times, in the 66 books of the King James Bible.  There are 10 different Hebrew and Greek definitions for the word that is translated “liberty.”  Most of them are very similar and some derivatives of the same root word.  There are repeated phrases like “set at liberty” and “proclaim liberty” and “your liberty” and “my liberty.” The meanings range from “broad,  large,  roomy,  wide” to “freedom/pardon/forgiveness” to “relieve” and “release” and “rest.”  Liberty.

This month of July in America starts off with a celebration of who we are – the crafters and proclaimers of the Declaration of Independence,  victors in the Revolutionary War, the ones who are truly the free and the brave. That’s us!

Sometimes, amidst the fireworks and the barbecue dinners, time with family and friends, and maybe even on a campground for an old fashioned Camp Meeting, we forget that the freedom we celebrate was not free.  It came only after hard-won battles. Lives were lost.  Families were fractured.  Freedom was not free.  Maintaining that freedom for ourselves and others continues to come, even today, at a high price.

As we look then, to our spiritual freedoms, we have to also ever remember the price that was paid for our spiritual liberty.  Sin bound us all.  Yet, from the foundation, there was a Lamb slain.  There was precious blood spent to purchase you and me.

The flag of the United States is a thing of beauty with it’s red and white stripes and blue background with stars.  The Statue of Liberty, with her lighted torch, and the plea of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is awe-inspiring.

On the other hand, there it is a beautiful terrible cross where Jesus Christ died to purchase our salvation.  Healing was in the stripes He suffered but it was gruesome not gorgeous.  “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  Yet, it was the price He paid for us  for our liberty.

How grateful we should be for the men and women who protect and serve our country and maintain freedom for us and others.  How much more grateful must we be to the God who robed Himself in flesh to walk among us  to suffer and die on Golgatha’s hill that we might be free.

I close with the lyrics of the song that got this thought process started.  I am proud to be called an American . . . glad to be called a Christian.  I will honor our flag and the statue of liberty.  And I will cling to the old rugged cross . . . where He purchased my liberty.

In New York stands a lady

With her torch raised to the sky

And all who see her

Know she stands for liberty for you and me.

I’m so proud to be called an American

To be named with the brave and the free

I will honor our flag and our trust in God

And the statue of liberty.

On lonely Golgatha stood a cross

With my Lord raised to the sky

And all who kneel there

Live forever

As all the saved can testify

I’m so glad to be called a Christian

To be named with the ransomed and whole

As the statue liberates the citizen

So the cross liberates the soul.

The cross is my statue of liberty

It was there that my soul was set free

Unashamed I’ll proclaim that the rugged cross

Is my statue of liberty.

Just A Little History Lesson

June 4, 2017 is marked on most Christian calendars as Pentecost Sunday.  So, for this month’s article, I wanted to do a little reflection on our Pentecostal history.  This is not the history of a denomination or a movement or any other random collection of people.  It is a very specific Biblical account of events following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Acts 2:1-4 opens the story for us all.  Jesus had been crucified and buried in a borrowed tomb.  All hope had seemed gone until that 3rd day when He rose from the dead and for forty days walked among them.  He left them with the instruction and the promise to go to Jerusalem and wait until they were endued with power from on high.  So it was that 120 believers were gathered in an upper house in Jerusalem, waiting. . . Continue reading “Just A Little History Lesson”

Blessed are the Persecuted

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

We don’t talk about persecution too much these days.  When we talk of persecution we often find ourselves focusing on the martyrs of old, men like Michael Servitus and Pliny the Younger and Justin Martyr and thousands of others who gave their lives rather than denounce their belief in Jesus Christ.

Tertullian observed:  “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow. The blood of Christians is seed.”  (Tertullian, Apology 50, c. A.D. 200). In the earliest years of Christianity, persecution of Christians was rampant. Continue reading “Blessed are the Persecuted”

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

If there’s anything in true shortage in our world today, it’s peace.  Check your current news source.  Google current wars or visit warsintheworld.com and you’ll see that we’re in the “wars and rumors of wars” stage of time.  In addition to these big real-life wars with guns and bombs, there are the smaller wars we all face every day.  The war between what is right and what is wrong.  The wars of words and deeds that rage between couples in the throes of divorce, among families wrought with discord.  In the business world, companies overtaking other companies and the threatened unemployment fallout leaves anything but peace in its wake.  So many more examples could be listed here.  People need peace. Continue reading “Blessed are the Peacemakers”

Blessed Are The Pure In Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Jesus, in this fifth “blessed are . . .” statement, makes clear His concern with our hearts.  He is not just interested in whether or not we change outwardly.  He wants to know our hearts are right as well.  In Matthew 23, he called out the scribes and Pharisee for being clean on the outside and filthy on the inside.  His instruction was to clean the inside of the cup first – and the plate – that the exterior might be clean as well.  He didn’t come just to change our lives; He came to change our hearts.  John Piper observed,

“What we are in the deep, private recesses of our lives is what he cares about most. Jesus did not come into the world simply because we have some bad habits that need to be broken. He came into the world because we have such dirty hearts that need to be purified.”

Continue reading “Blessed Are The Pure In Heart”

Blessed Are The Merciful

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

The law of sowing and reaping is often quoted in reference to bad behaviors and the end result of a sinful life.  However, it also refers to the sowing and reaping of good things.  True, you can sow unhappiness and reap a lifetime of it for yourself.  But, by the same token, you can sow happiness and ultimately reap happiness in your own life.

This beatitude that promises mercy for mercy reflects that law in the best of terms.  If you and I can learn to practice mercy toward others, we will, when it is needed in our own lives, find that mercy is granted to us.  Long ago, dealing with a particular situation involving a couple of church families, I heard a pastor say, “If I am going to make a mistake with an individual, I would rather err on the side of mercy than ever on the side of judgement.”  He has lived that – and lived to reap that.  We cannot expect to set ourselves up to harshly judge others and expect, when our time comes, to receive great mercy from those same individuals in our own situations. Continue reading “Blessed Are The Merciful”

Blessed Are The Hungry & Thirsty

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:

for they shall be filled.

Have you ever had one of those conversations with your spouse or kids?

“I’m hungry . . .”

“Okay, let’s see . . . What are you hungry for?”

“I don’t know really . . . I’m just hungry. . .”

“How about Mexican?”

“No, anything but Mexican. . .”

“What about trying the new Italian place?”

“No, that doesn’t really sound good to me . . .”

“So, you choose . . . What about just ordering pizza?”

“No . . .let me think about it . . .” and they wander off into another room.

Meanwhile, by now you’re hungry, too, and they can’t make up their mind so you’re at their mercy. Continue reading “Blessed Are The Hungry & Thirsty”

Blessed Are The Meek

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Meek.  It’s not a word we hear very often anymore.  And, when we do, it’s usually not considered a compliment.  Biblically, the word means “humble.”  Another word, not necessarily considered a positive attribute in our “dog-eat-dog” world where aggressiveness and brashness are rewarded.

Yet, meekness was a characteristic Jesus used to describe Himself.  Matthew records this:  “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).  In II Corinthians 10:1 Paul referred to “the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” It is in I Peter 3:4, we read that the true adorning is said to be that of “a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.” Continue reading “Blessed Are The Meek”

Blessed Are They That Mourn

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” -Mat 5:4

Loss is a fact of life.  It seems to be a part of us from the earliest of our human experience.

There is a seemingly constant cycle of physical losses.  A newborn baby – though welcomed into a whole new world of existence – loses the quiet comfort of its mother’s womb. The toddler loses his or her “baby fat.”  Baby teeth are replaced by permanent teeth.  And so it goes . . . until we find ourselves as our human lives are winding down and we lose things like our hair and our hearing, our memory and our mobility.  We learn to try not to focus on what we’ve lost, but to celebrate what is left. Continue reading “Blessed Are They That Mourn”

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,

and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Let’s be honest. No one aspires to be poor. No one relishes being poor. No one does a happy dance when they are out of money and go to the mailbox to find one more bill to pay. No one is happy when there are children without enough food to eat. Elders without enough money to cover the cost of their medication or their simple living expenses are not happy elders. Obligations to meet or miss can be overwhelming. However, that’s not the kind of poor Jesus was referring to in this passage. He didn’t say the blessed are the financially challenged, nor did He mean that. Being poor in spirit is a different kind of poor-ness – that isn’t about poverty. Continue reading “Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit”